Bharatanatyam’s Language Fills Me With Wonderment: Malavika Sarukkai
NEW DELHI, (IANS) – It’s been half a century for her as a dancer. A lifetime with an art form that has changed the way she observes, interacts, and engages with people, and the world around her. But Bharatanatyam dancer Malavika Sarukkai stresses that as an artist, she continues to be on a journey of discovery. “I think living a life with dance has made me more responsive, and reflective. Dance has changed me intrinsically,” this Padma Shri recipient says.
Adding that things are not the same for youngsters just entering this field today as compared to her time, she feels the world as we know it presently is different from what she grew up in. “I think when I started learning dance, it allowed me to have a ‘childhood’, a certain innocence in approach where dance could become a sanctuary. These days, the younger generation is under more pressure. There is immense competition to ‘achieve’. I feel they have less time to pause… to just be with dance.”
Sarukkai has always insisted dance should be considered a language and not looked at it as a repertoire. Bharata Natyam is a style that she learned from extraordinary gurus who inculcated in her the foundations of this form. However, continued training for over two decades and as she internalized the form, it no longer remained a style but become a language of dance. “This was a momentous step for me as with this discovery I crossed a critical threshold in my understanding of dance. With this clarity, I took ownership of the dance in my being and with this the world of creative explorations opened up.”
She feels internalization is a word that constantly reminds the serious practitioner of the performing arts that there is more to be done. The process is slow and gradually increases in intensity over the years. “The questions one asks are – how much more can one extend oneself; how much more can one inhabit the dance; how much more can one work on mastering technique? As the saying goes ‘technique disguises the dancer and reveals the dance”. That’s the purpose of internalizing’.”
For her, the language of Bharatanatyam is inexhaustible and inspiring. “It keeps me filled with wonderment at the sheer possibility it offers,” she smiles.
Talk to her about the reaction of purists when she started creating her own pieces, and Sarukkai says the body of work she has created over the last three decades is a celebration of the classical language of dance and its immense possibilities. “These choreographies individual and thematic evolved organically over the years and were presented with conviction and passion. This was convincing testimony for the purists and dance enthusiasts, and they soon realized that my journey was path-breaking and which in turn would open up possibilities for the next generation.”